Stronger US-Canada ties on menu for Trudeau-Obama talks

President Barack Obama, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, first lady Michelle Obama and Sophie Gregoire Turdeau wave from the Truman Balcony during a state arrival ceremony on the South Lawn of White House in Washington, Thursday, March 10, 2016. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised Thursday to make it easier for their respective countries to trade and invest in one another, share more information about their respective no-fly lists to prevent the flow of foreign fighters and promote clean energy as a central focus of economic growth.

Obama and Trudeau spoke during a news conference after they met in the Oval Office, and after a welcoming ceremony at which the White House rolled out the red carpet for the first official visit in nearly two decades by a Canadian prime minister, a charismatic and youthful liberal leader intent on maintaining tight ties with the United States.

“We’re woven together so deeply as societies, as economies, that it’s sometimes easy to forget how truly remarkable our relationship is,” Obama said.

Obama said the two leaders instructed aides to make it easier for goods and people to move back and forth between the two nation’s borders. Trudeau said the two leaders made clear they both want a “clean-growth economy,” and earlier in the day, they announced efforts to reduce methane emissions from gas and oil production.

“I’m confident that by working together, we’ll get there sooner than we think,” Trudeau said.

While the two leaders stressed how closely their nations are aligned, it was also clear they see similarities in each other. “From my perspective, what’s not to like?” Obama said of Trudeau.

Trudeau said he is always pleased to hear from Obama on how he’s handled various difficult issues of the past. He said it is a great comfort to have advice from people one can trust and count on personally.

“He’s a man of tremendous heart and tremendous intellect,” Trudeau said.

Earlier in the day, Obama greeted Trudeau by emphasizing that their nations are blessed to be neighbors with shared views on the importance of health care as right for all and diversity as a sign of strength.

“We see ourselves in each other, guided by the same values,” Obama said.

At the ornate arrival ceremony on the South Lawn, Obama and first lady Michelle Obama welcomed Trudeau, the 44-year-old son of the late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, and his wife, Sophie Gregoire.

The leaders found time for some levity before heading into an Oval Office meeting, with a state dinner to come in the evening.

The president hit on a topic of national pride for Canadians: hockey.

“Where’s the Stanley Cup right now?” Obama joked, before answering his own question — the Chicago Blackhawks won it last season.

Trudeau tried to match Obama’s trash talk, noting that three of the Blackhawks’ best players are from Canada. Still, the young prime minister’s remarks were largely earnest. He linked his agenda to the Obama administration’s and said the two governments “share and are working on the exact same objectives.”

“There is no relationship in the entire world like the Canada-U.S. relationship,” Trudeau said. “We grew up together.”

Despite that close geographical and political alliance, no Canadian prime minister had made an official visit since 1997, a fact that Obama noted.

“It’s about time, eh?” Obama said, playing up the Canadian colloquialism.

Canada is the United States’ largest trading partner, with more than $2 billion worth of goods and services crossing the border every day. About 75 percent of Canada’s exports go to the U.S.

Besides trade, the two leaders are expected to seek common ground on environment protection. Before their meeting, the U.S. and Canada said in a statement that they will work to put in place the existing international agreement in Paris on curbing global warming. They committed to reducing methane emissions by 40 percent to 45 percent from 2012 levels over the coming decade.

Methane is the second most prevalent greenhouse gas emitted in the U.S. from human activities and is much more efficient at trapping radiation than carbon dioxide.

Trudeau’s father swept into power in 1968 and, with a short interruption, served until 1984. He was often compared to President John F. Kennedy and remains one of the few Canadian politicians known in America.

Tall and fit, Justin Trudeau channels the charisma of his father. He aims to restore his father’s legacy as leader of the Liberal Party, which was under siege during 10 years of Conservative rule under Stephen Harper, Trudeau’s predecessor.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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